Teens may find it embarrassing to test their blood sugars when they are with friends. If they avoid it their diabetes may get out of control. (CBC)

Diabetes stigma may lead to emergencies among teens: study

It’s hard enough coping with adolescence, but add in the challenges of coping with type 1 diabetes and teens can sometimes neglect their treatment and come close to suffering dangerous health crises. This is the finding from a recent study out of the McGill University Health Centre’s Research Institute.

Diabetes an epidemic in Canada

“Canada is facing a diabetes epidemic – one in three Canadians lives with diabetes or pre-diabetes and young people in their twenties have a 50 per cent chance of developing the disease in their lifetime,” said Dr. Jan Hux, president of the non-profit group Diabetes Canada. The risk is higher among Indigenous people in Canada and they develop the disease earlier in life.

Testing is a good idea, given that Canadians’ risk of developing diabetes is 50 per cent and it is higher for Indigenous people. (CBC/file)

Embarrassment is a problem

Researchers questioned 380 people with type 1 diabetes between the ages of 14 and 24 and found they suffered from a high prevalence of stigma. This involved embarrassment in performing diabetes care with others present and difficulty telling others about diabetes diagnosis.

The reported stigma prevalence of 65.5 per cent was found to be associated with difficulties in managing their sugar levels and, as a news release put it, those feeling stigma sometimes “neglect treatment and tread dangerously close to suffering medical emergencies.”

Peer support offered

Given these results, a peer-to-peer online network was created where youth in this situation can share health and practical tips.

The research findings were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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